Charles Macfarlane

Educated under duress at plummy schools, my accent often causes comment, usually adverse.

At seventeen, I refused to go back (causing a major family row), and instead got A-Levels at a London 6th Form College (as we'd call it now).  Anxious to fit in, I tried to ditch my accent, thinking then and for years later that I'd made a pretty good job of it, but when met up with a former fellow student, he let slip that my accent had been a frequent source of embarrassment!  Such is how inflated egos justly get deflated.  I don't bother trying to hide it now ...

Having Scottish relations in the family, I'm not usually troubled by the accent  in fact I have to stop myself from seeming to take the p*ss by unconsciously mimicking it  but, perhaps thanks to the plummy school, Scots (I believe sometimes pretend to) occasionally have difficulties with mine.

Driving back from Piping Competitions in Inverness with my brother, we stopped at Glasgow for food, and bruv shoved a tenner in my hand to get same.  In the chippie, I asked:

"Pie and chips, twice, please!".

I (genuinely) wasn't understood.  I asked again ...  Still nothing ...  Then light:

"Ach! You'll be wanting pee 'n chups!"

On another occasion, soon to be girlfriend and love-of-my-life (now, alas, long ex-) had accepted a volunteer post on an archaeological site near Irving, and I called in and pitched tent for a couple of nights on my way further north.  Knowing only that she was housed in an ex-army camp called Dundonald, I knocked at a door in the nearest village to ask the way:

"Ahm sorrry, whar?"
"Dundonald Camp"
"Whar? Ach, you'll be wanting ..."

What interested me about the way she pronounced 'Donald' was that, while the consonants were clearly the English ones, the vowels sounded exactly like the archive recordings I'd heard of pipers singing 'Piobaireachd Dhomhnuill Duibh' / 'Pibroch O' Donald Dhu' / 'Black Donald's March'.  While historically I guess this must have arisen through a natural morphing of Gaelic pronunciation onto English, the effect was rather as though some bolshy had said: "We may have to speak your goddamn language, but we'll pronounce it just the same as our own anyway!"

Next evening, C & I went to a local pub together.  After we'd bought each other drinks, it was my turn again, and I returned to the bar.  There a tiny (I'm 6'4", 1.93m) drunken guy said to me something like "alsjapwrtpncmv m, ijgidjfgar0igtdnlsdkfg".  I don't think it was the fact he was addressing my navel that was the problem, or the thick local accent, it was that he was drunk and I was still relatively sober.  I'm sure if I'd been as drunk as he obviously was, I'd've understood him perfectly, but, as it was, I pretended to agree and made a polite escape as soon as I had the refills.

Hell, for all I knew, I could have been agreeing to participate in an illegal and unnatural act ...


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